Boston columnist compares Red Sox playing in Fenway to baseball’s history of segregation

I’ve been a newspaper columnist myself, so I get what they’re for. At their best, they combine insightful reporting with the kind of personable, entertaining writing that isn’t usually allowed on the news pages. (I’m not sure that distinction will hold up in the age of blogs, but it’s been useful for newspapers.) At their worst, they’re just people who are paid a lot of money to gush opinions that aren’t any more sensible or well-researched than those held by any random person on the street, but which for some reason go out to millions of readers.

The Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley, at least, is up-front about what his opinions are: This is a guy who last summer called himself “the cranky guy who screams that Boston needs a new baseball park.” So we shouldn’t be surprised that with Boston talking vaguely about somehow building a stadium for the 2024 Olympics if it gets them, Buckley, who doesn’t want Boston to get the Olympics, has nonetheless turned it into an opportunity to scream that Boston needs a new baseball park:

Fenway Park isn’t going to last forever. As Red Sox principal owner John Henry said last spring, the aging ballpark has “an expiration date.”


“I think we’re several decades away, a good 30 years,” Henry said. “Hopefully we’ll still be around, but we’ll leave that for the next ownership group. Someone at some point in the decades ahead will have to address the possibility of a new ballpark.”…

But if we left all our problems to be solved by future generations, we’d still be dumping raw sewage in the Charles River. Jackie Robinson never would have gotten into Ebbets Field without a ticket.

And there you have it, the kind of opinion trap that columnists all too often find themselves building and then falling into: The Red Sox continuing to play in Fenway Park is like swimming in filth and segregation. I really doubt that Buckley sat down to write that yesterday, but eventually he got to a point where he needed to figure out how to argue that the third-most-valuable team in baseball can’t live without a new stadium, just because the team’s owner said Fenway should be structurally sound for another three decades or more, but three decades isn’t until the end of time, now is it?

This is the kind of logic that an editor really should catch and send back for rewrites, but opinion columnists don’t generally have their ideas rejected just because their editors think they’re screwy. Unless somebody powerful objects to it, that is, in which case it’s bound for the circular file. Some ideas are more unacceptable than others.

14 comments on “Boston columnist compares Red Sox playing in Fenway to baseball’s history of segregation

  1. first, SFP! is still here so don’t worry.
    b)the Herald could care less about what they print. and c) mr Buckley must miss hearing from me.

  2. If and when the Boston Red Sox ownership deem they need a new stadium, there is absolutely no doubt that they can easily afford to pay for 100% of it. We can all move along now.

  3. Isn’t Fenway still a registered/protected building? Wasn’t that how (some of) the renovations were paid for?

    Isn’t it going to be financially counterproductive for a “the next owner” to pay to maintain the old building – which must be preserved – when they no longer play there?

    I guess Op Eds must have word limits that prevent discussion on these kinds of questions…

  4. Financially speaking, why would any Red Sox owner want to build a new park?
    The current ownership group has done an amazing job of squeezing every penny from the old park and capitalizing on every marketing opportunity. Being in Fenway makes the Red Sox a unique experience and many people are willing to pay extra for that experience. Once the new-ness of a new park fades away, all the new stadiums are so very similar to each other, so wouldn’t the Red Sox lose their unique ballpark experience and the unique revenue premiums that come with it?

  5. @ Neil

    Have you seen this “Taxpayers on $271 million Petco hook”

    Sorry it’s off topic but it’s a pretty expensive screw up on Petco Park. This will also be the final nail in the coffin for the San Diego Chargers.

  6. Hadn’t seen it, thanks! This is really just a battle between the city and state over the RDA money, though, right? So “taxpayers” will be on the hook either way, it’s just a matter of whether it’s San Diego taxpayers only or all of California?

  7. That is happening all over the state. The state’s RDA money grab back has been causing backfiring and lawsuits state wide as the state continues to shirk the obligations of RDAs in violation of their own agreement that any existing contracts would remain in force.

  8. In answer to the preservation question, that the ballpark is on the National Register of Historic Places doesn’t protect it from the wrecking ball but sure is bad press for anyone who gives that a go. As for the 10-year renovation of Fenway, ownership opted to apply for the state and federal historic preservation tax credit programs which require stringent review and adherence to preservation standards. Their out-of-pocket expenses are estimated at $285M.

  9. Erika, do the preservation tax credits require that the building be preserved for a certain amount of time? Or is it assumed that the capital investment will be enough incentive not to immediately tear it down?

  10. No team can live without a new stadium. That’s just obvious!

    p.s. it must be publicly funded too!

  11. Yes, Neil, in regard to time period… for five years the buildings are, for lack of a better word, protected. After that… ?

  12. So then, Erika, placing a building on the register isn’t really much use from a preservation standpoint?

    That’s really strange… what is the point if the buildings (or sites, many are not buildings per se) can be torn down less than a decade later?

  13. Apologies for late follow-up…. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 affords ‘adverse effect’ review provisions. This would include the State Historic Preservation Officer and the public. Search ‘section 106’ for full explanation.